As I write this, my thoughts go back to this past Sunday. I decided to take some time and clear a bunch of old and useless email from one of my accounts. While doing so, I ran across a very complimentary email from Jim Marony from a few years back. I read it, smiled, and said to myself yeah, I’ll keep this one.
It was midway through the morning of the next day while at work that I received the text of Jim’s tragic accident. I’m not sure what others do, but in situations like this my head becomes flooded with memories of the times I shared with the person who has passed. In thinking of jim I was quickly struck by the thought that it was hard to remember a time I hadn’t seen him with a smile on his face.
I have read of Jim’s many accomplishments in aviation both in the military and civilian life. I’m pretty sure this list of people who have done the same or more is a very short one. I only got to see Jim a few times a year, but he would always take time to chat and share a laugh. The last time I talked to him was at Waukegan. I was explaining a shot I had of him taking off through the smoke from Paul Stender’s jet school bus. He was laughing when I told him it looked like his Chipmunk had caused all the smoke.
As photographer you attend many airshows, and see many performers. Many fly the same or similar aircraft. While all are talented, some really stand out from others who fly the same plane. Jim caught my eye the first time I saw him do the outside Waldo Pepper loop. I’m not sure if any other performers had this maneuver in their shows, but it was the first time I had seen it. However that was not quite enough for Jim. I think it was at the Quad City Airshow that I first saw him open the canopy and stand up in the plane while still in flight. I can still hear at first the gasp at the start, then cheers upon completion of the maneuver.
I feel lucky to have known such great person and talented performer. I feel good that our last conversation had made him smile and laugh, but I know that feeling of sadness and of something missing will hit next time I’m at an airshow without him performing. So take a bow my friend, you will be missed by so many.
Everyone’s excited about the return of the military jet demonstration teams to the airshow circuit for the 2014 season. After a years absence, most photographers I know are ready for their return. Some are already planning their schedules around shows they will perform at.
I personally welcome the return, however having shot them so many times over the years, they will not be a deciding factor as to what events I attend.
Excitement aside, there is one element of the of the military teams performance that is gone forever never to return. That is the JATO performed by the Blue Angels C130 Fat Albert.
For those of you who never got to see this, here is a brief explanation. The acronym (JATO) stands for jet assisted takeoff. This is a means of lifting aircraft off of very short air strips in the minimum amount of distance. It is accomplished by attaching canisters containing rocket propellant to racks mounted on the sides of the planes fuselage. These canisters known as JATO bottles are triggered by the pilot when the correct takeoff speed is reached. Once fired the bottles provide jet force lift to turboprop and heavy jet aircraft. They remain on for a short time until they exhaust their fuel.
It is a truly amazing site to see as heavy aircraft are launched into the air in this manner. It would be nice to see it once again, but the cost, logistics, and lack of serviceable JATO bottles makes this a near impossibility.
While preparing my schedule for 2013, I had already decided as far back as November that my airshow schedule would be quite different from past years. Even before sequestration, I was planning to skip many of the large shows I would usually attend in favor of smaller ones. The primary reason, variety. I felt the small shows would provide unique and rare aircraft that normally does not get booked into large shows. For me this worked out quite well. I was able to get up close to, and meet the people who own and fly these great old aircraft.
Poplar Grove’s Vintage Wings and Wheels Festival was a perfect example of just such a show. Vintage aircraft flying and on display, as well as vintage cars and tractors.
It’s not often you get five or six Stearmans in one place, and flying formation. Also in attendance were WACO, Fleet, Pietenpol, a and Bird BK among others.
With the a fair amount of old cars and tractors included, it was a day well spent. For me this kind of up close and low key show is a joy to shoot. The ability to get close and interact with the people who love these machines adds a lot to the experience. This show and others like will be a priority for me going into next year.
Try not to get cross with me if I get you crossed up with this post. In Airshow language it might be the the high speed cross, the knife edge cross, the double cross, or the switch blade cross. Whatever you call it it is one of the most eliciting maneuvers performed by military or civilian aerobatic teams.
The illusion of two or more aircraft on a collision course and narrowly missing one another by mere feet always draws gasp, then applause from the audience. But it is just that an illusion. These pilots are not dare devils, or reckless individuals. In fact just the opposite. They are highly trained and skilled aviators doing what they are good at. But still we will leave the average Airshow spectator with their illusion, it excites them and makes them come back for more.